Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rules. People just love them, though they will never admit it.


On Facebook I blocked all the posts on the miraculous, or dangerous qualities of food. It's driving me nuts to read about yet another super food, or how the things I eat daily are bad, bad, bad for me. I know people who try to avoid gluten, while they don't have coeliac disease. Or they hear about lactoses intolerance and immediately cut dairy products from their diet. And of course you have to drink 2 litres of clear water a day. And that should be clear water, not tea or fruit juice, mind you!

It reminds me of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of orthodox Judaism that make relaxed normal living virtually impossible. Or all the rules invented by the Muslim youths that follow the selefi sect. Like: if you notice a hole in your sock after praying, your prayer is invalid and you have to do it again, after you took off your socks. Ridiculous isn't it?

But is it not just as ridiculous to measure the amount of water you drink every day? Or to never eat cooked food anymore? Why do people do this to themselves?!
I guess there is some comfort in following strict rules. Follow the rules and you're doing it right. You don't have to choose, you don't have to doubt, you know what you have to do.

At first I thought that all these fashionable foody rules would have something to do with the overload of choices in modern society. If you are vegan and don't eat sugar, you can skip 95% of the shelves in the supermarket. Hurray!
But there must be more to it, because people have been inventing arbitrary rules for millennia.
Especially religious rules of course: go to church on Sundays, no meat on Fridays, no work on Sabbath, pray 5 times a day, or else something really bad might happen!
Don't eat wheat or sugar, drink your water, eat your goji berries, or something really bad might happen!

Is the modern health food rage a substitute for religion maybe? To avoid disaster there is a given set of rules. Follow those and you keep things under control, you won't get cancer.

People just love rules, as long as they feel it is their own choice to follow them.
Let's take a look at our neo pagan community. Modern witches love to think of themselves as free spirited, independent thinkers, who broke free from the cage of organized religion. But in fact the majority is clinging to a rather fixed set of customs, that were written down in some books during the last half century. The wheel of the year with 8 festivals, a ritual has to start with the casting of a circle, Air is in the east and there are 3 grades of initiation, etc. And everyone works with lists of correspondences, that are most of the time invented by just one person.

These rules give structure to your practice and create a common ground for collaboration.
But they are completely arbitrary in fact, isn't that funny?
Gardner, Crowley, Buckland, the Farrars and others have written down their ideas and no one is hardly ever questioning them now. Just follow the rules and you do it right. Even in the non hierarchical, almost anarchistic, Reclaiming I met someone who told me, that if I did not do things a certain way, I could not call myself a Reclaimer. (which was bullocks btw)

In this way modern witchcraft has also become a kind of organized religion. With above mentioned writers at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the initiated, or self proclaimed, high priestesses, who will teach others how things should be done. Whole branches of modern witchcraft only know how to follow the rules laid down in books and on websites. Which leads to rituals that only follow form, but have no content, because people never thought about WHY they do certain things in a certain way. They are just stressing about details like finding the right colour candles and altar cloth.

As long as you wear your pentagram, as long as you have all the right tools on your altar, as long as you can read the invocation from a book, without mistake, you must be doing it right. Right?
Put the altar in the North, celebrate harvest in August, dance naked in the moonlight and for goodness sake don't mess up any correspondences, or something really bad might happen. You might not be a real witch! :)

I guess rules are just a way for people to deal with their insecurities. If you're not sure who or what you are, you can stick to a set of noble rules and know that you must be a good person. A better person than those who don't follow the rules. Which explains the smirk on the face of the lady in the health food store, who told me it was impossible to not like soy milk.

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